Less than four minutes into the 76ers’ playoff opener against the Toronto Raptors, Tyrese Maxey snagged an offensive rebound off a Tobias Harris missed step-back jumper and dished to James Harden for a three-pointer at the top of the key. On the ensuing possession, Harris swiped the ball from the Raptors’ OG Anunoby and kicked it ahead to Maxey for crowd-igniting dunk.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers entered this first-round series acknowledging that his team’s weaknesses — rebounding and transition defense — were the Raptors’ strengths, and that Toronto would “try to pound that into us.” That is a reason why Toronto had become a trendy upset pick in this postseason matchup. Yet the Sixers emphatically answered the challenge during Saturday’s 131-111 thrashing, outrebounding Toronto 39-36 (including 10-7 on the offensive glass) and outscoring the Raptors 17-7 on second-chance points and 29-10 in fast-break points.

“We knew that’s the type of team that they are: [a] scrappy, tall team that has a lot of wings that can go get rebounds,” Harris said. “ ... Our emphasis from early in the game is we had to match their physicality and even be more physical than them.”

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Those final numbers do not even fully capture the Sixers’ dominance in those areas. By the end of the third quarter, when the score had long been out of hand, the Sixers had a 32-24 rebounding edge — including 10-5 on the offensive glass — and had outscored the Raptors 17-3 on second-chance points and 22-9 in transition.

It was quite the about-face from the Sixers’ previous 82 games, and in their four prior matchups against Toronto.

The Sixers ended the regular season ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams in rebounding (42.3 per game) and 28th in fast-break points allowed (15 per game), while the Raptors were eighth in rebounding (45.3 per game), second in offensive rebounds (13.4 per game) and third in fast-break points (15.8 per game).

Unsurprisingly, those statistical categories were significant factors during their regular-season series, which the Raptors won, 3-1. In those four games, the Sixers were outrebounded, 187-158, including 57-28 on the offensive glass. The Raptors also outscored the Sixers, 85-48, on second-chance points and 73-30 in fast-beak points.

Saturday night, the Sixers regularly kept all five defenders in the vicinity to finish possessions with the rebound. That they committed only three turnovers (one through three quarters) squashed the Raptors’ chances to get out in the open court for easy buckets. MVP contender Joel Embiid, who finished with 15 boards, called that area one of his priorities in the game. The Sixers also placed a focus on their own offensive rebounding, especially from reserve wing Matisse Thybulle because defenses often sag off him and “he’s the one guy on our team that has the speed to get back [on defense],” Rivers said.

Harris also credited four practice days leading up to Game 1 — including two with intense scrimmaging that left the Sixers “at the point that we wanted to kill each other,” he said with a chuckle — with instilling a mentality that they transferred to the Wells Fargo Center floor.

“We kind of just came out and took all that energy out on them,” Harris said. “And that’s what we have to do for Game 2 and the games going forward.”

Because rebounding and transition play are connected. Conventional wisdom and history say that pace slows down in the playoffs, but Rivers expected going into the series that the Raptors would “try to play the same.” One way to attempt to stop fast-break opportunities is by sending fewer players to the glass so they can get back on defense, but that does not appear to be a realistic option against this Raptors team.

Toronto coach Nick Nurse joked before Game 1 that a reason the Raptors were so prolific at rebounding during the regular season was because “there’s a lot of them to get” as a team that ranked 25th in the NBA in field-goal percentage (44.5). But it has been an emphasis since the beginning of the season, especially with a roster full of long and athletic players. Harris added that while most opponents send one or two players to rebound after a missed shot, the Raptors can unleash four or five at times.

“Give the guys credit,” Nurse said before Game 1. “It takes a lot of work to offensive rebound, and they’ve been pretty relentless at it.”

To help counter those lineups, second-year big man Paul Reed was the backup center Saturday night. Rebounding is also his specialty, a skill he said he “was born with.” He totaled four rebounds in 11 minutes Saturday, after grabbing seven (including three on the offensive end) in an April 7 loss in Toronto while stepping into the role that has been most often occupied by DeAndre Jordan since he was signed off the buyout market.

“It’s always been like that since I was a kid,” Reed said of his rebounding ability. “I always wanted to be able to affect the game and help my team win any way I could. And, for me, that’s been rebounding my whole life. … Rebounding [has always] been, like, my backbone. If I ain’t scoring, I’m definitely getting rebounds.”

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When the Raptors collected seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter of their April 7 victory, Rivers half-joked that he expected them to set a record against his team. Though the Sixers only gave up five the rest of the game, a significant reason was because they shot 56.5% in the second half.

That’s why Rivers said better one-on-one defense would also be a key precursor to better rebounding.

“The better we keep the ball out of the paint, the better we’re going to rebound,” Rivers said following a practice before Game 1. “The better we can not help [defensively], the more we’re gonna be able to rebound. If you see the ball in the paint and if you see us helping a lot, you’re going to see a lot of offensive rebounds, and we know that.”

Before Game 1, Nurse said he anticipated that the Sixers would “want to block us out pretty badly” throughout the series and that “we’ll see whose will can kind of win that part of the game.”

The Sixers emphatically answered that challenge in a Game 1 blowout. But they are also anticipating the Raptors to make adjustments in two areas that have been strengths for the entire season.

“I’m sure they’re going to come even harder next game,” Embiid said. “So we’ve got to be prepared.”